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Book Recommendations

The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday

October 2023
— Reading Time: 3 minutes


Previously I have written a book recommendation on Courage is Calling by Ryan Holiday as blog 84. I continue now writing one for The Obstacle is the Way, another of his Stoic Virtues series. To some extent, I feel that I am late to the table in discovering Holiday’s books, especially as I notice he has 676k followers on Instagram! Be that as it may, what matters is that I am now well and truly at the table!

I love the way Holiday turns on its head —and this, incidentally, turning obstacles on their head, or flipping them, is something in the line of the Stoics that he advocates—the concept of an obstacle being a negative and replaces it with opportunity. Not only that, a further extension exists: if you are able to see not only an opportunity in an obstacle but are able to embrace it instead of dreading or suffering it —for the rewards thereby gained—then you have truly flipped the ‘problem’. Holiday offers : “I want to show you the way to turn every obstacle into an advantage.”  In embracing the obstacle as the way, an obstacle becomes a powerful way to achieve greater personal growth. It is a marvellous awareness to arrive at this point and to have the perspective to understand it. Indeed, as Holiday states succinctly: 

What blocked the path now is a path.

What once impeded action advances action.

The Obstacle is the Way. 

With this recalibration in mind, and the reality that everyday there will be obstacles to encounter —that is the reality— how rewarding it is to contemplate the countless opportunities ahead! To progress through the day with this mindset, is indeed a revelation.

In fully understanding this concept, according to Holiday, we may count ourselves among the successors of the Stoics and join the ranks of the thinkers: “You now join the ranks of Marcus Aurelius, Cato, Seneca, Thomas Jefferson, James Stockdale, Epictetus”—a heady alumni indeed. With this membership comes an inheritance of a wonderful thinking community. The challenge is to live the life which is worthy of being in these ranks.

Holiday makes the terms of membership simple and direct: use your powers of perception, action, and will. With this triad:

First, see clearly.

Next, act correctly.

Finally, endure and accept the world as it is.

We at my manifesto can assist you to accomplish the first directive of this triad. Our work is geared towards assisting you to begin the process of seeing clearly, by firstly knowing yourself. When you have reflected deeply upon your strengths and values, cares, and challenges, you then see more clearly your best contribution to this world in which you live. The second directive of the triad—acting correctly—now that your focus is laser sharpened, is the challenge of living congruently with your personal manifesto. The final step —endure and accept the world as it is—is such a gift from Holiday, and one for which he channels the Stoics. With endurance and acceptance, you stop spinning your wheels, stop challenging the givens, and settle into truly living the course of your challenging and rich life— and feel the inner peace which comes with that.

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